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Old 24th February 2013, 09:06   #1
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Default Going solo at 5 kmph - Mumbai to Goa in an inflatable kayak!

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Now that I have your attention with the photograph, I would like to begin telling you my story.

PROLOGUE:

The Konkan coastline has always fascinated me. When I was living in Delhi around a decade ago, one of my friends mentioned Ganpatiphule, and showed me some pictures which looked incredible. White sands, emerald water and kilometers of uncrowded beaches. Surely, this can't be India, can it? So when I moved to Bangalore a year later, I wasted no time in getting on my trusty Royal Enfield to explore Ganpatiphule, Tarkarli and some hidden gems - like Ganeshgule, for one. After that ride, I was convinced that the Konkani coastline was the best in India and many more treasures lay waiting to be explored and discovered.

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In January 2011, I set out for the second time to the Konkani coast, this time on a much faster Ninja 250. I left at 6 am, and by 4pm, I was in Ganpatiphule. After a quick shower and some much needed rest, I went downstairs for my dinner. Beautiful place for a restaurant, sans the crowd. I was enjoying my fish curry rice with the ocean breeze in my face, and then suddenly my cellphone rang. It was one of my friends from Jalandhar, Punjab. They asked me where I was, and I told them I was a few hundred kilometers north of Goa. 'That is awesome. All of us are here too, why don't you come and join us?' They explained that they fled Jalandhar because it was freezing there, and they had booked an independent villa near Colva for 10 days. And yes, a rented car to go around too.

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The whole deal sounded very sweet, so the next day I hopped on the Ninja and sped down the highway to Colva beach. I dumped my leathers, parked my motorcycle, slipped into a pair of shorts and a worn in tee, and I was all set for Goa mode. We spent the next few days driving around, not doing much except for eating on different beaches. Some of the people from the group decided to move out of the luxury accommodation, and into beachside shacks on the Paloleum beach to soak it up. On the evening of our last day in Goa, all of us decided to get together for dinner on Paloleum beach. When I reached the shack, a few of the guys from the group were out kayaking (or least trying very hard to) fifty meters from the shore, in these plastic, molded sit-on-top kayaks rented from one of the shops on the beach.

They came back in an hour or so - one of guys went 'kayaking' with his girlfriend, and we did not see him back till after sunset. We noticed that the kayak didn't really go anywhere, it was just leisurely going around in short circles on the calm ocean waves. Some quality quiet time on a kayak for two. Privacy is a rare luxury in our country of one billion.

Finally, when all of us got together for dinner, the conversation flowed in many directions, from how beaches in Goa have become commercialized, to what the weather was like in Jalandhar and how their poor cousins there were freezing their butts off. At one point, the boys started talking about how fun kayaking was, and asked me whether I had done any kayaking before. I told them that I had some experience kayaking in rivers and lakes, but little in the open waters. I also told them why I was exploring the Konkan coast - trying to find out virgin beaches and places untouched by commercial tourism.

At that point, I thought to myself, 'it will be awesome exploring the Konkan coast by sea - not all of the coastline was accessible by road, and a boat would be just perfect! Maybe a kayak will do nicely, too.'

And before I knew it, I said it aloud to the group, " I will kayak the entire Konkan coast solo. I will begin just below Mumbai, and Kayak down to Goa."

When I said that, only a couple of people were listening to me. You know how a big group dinner seated alongside a table goes. It is never one big, connected conversation, but little rivulets of discussions flowing at their own merry pace. But what I said caught the attention of a few people in the group, and they go," Hey guys. Rahul just said something crazy. Listen to him."

I repeated what I said about kayaking Mumbai to Goa. One of my friends who knew me for a long time simply said, " He is going to do it. This dude is nuts. He once told me that he will ride a motorcycle from Bangalore to Jalandhar,and what do you know, he was there the next year".

Some of them thought I was joking, and then returned to their grilled fish and chips. But my head was exploding with a thousand thoughts. The whole idea seemed very enticing and daring, to say the least. I knew it could be done. But what kayak? What route? How many days? What kind of gear? Navigation systems? So many questions, but little answers at that time.

But that was it. A birth of an idea which would result in the most incredible trip of my life almost two years later.

Last edited by Kamen_rider : 23rd March 2013 at 12:12.
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Old 19th March 2013, 22:57   #2
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Default The preparation

I came back to Bangalore, and settled into the humdrum of my regular corporate life. Well, not exactly regular, because I had a rather fun job, but then everything becomes ordinary if you do it everyday. After a month or so of the daily routine, I started thinking about how to approach planning the mega trip. I knew the first thing I should check off my list is that how much this trip is going to cost, because that would decide the timing. Six months or one year later. This year or the next year. I also knew that the biggest expenditure would the kayak. There was also this small hitch - I could not take a hard shell Kayak for this trip because of transportation issues. It had to be a hybrid - a Kayak which has the tracking (the ability of a kayak to keep a straight line) of a rigid hard shell, but has the convenience of a folding Kayak. Easier said that done, because finding one was as hard as finding common sense on Indian roads.

I also knew that almost everything for this trip would have to be imported. Everything would need to be super compact and lightweight to be able to fit into the limited cargo hold of a Kayak; that meant I could not use regular outdoors equipment. Since the choice of the kayak was the key to the success of this trip, I started googling as if I was possessed. Finally I narrowed down to four manufacturers of folding/inflatable/hybrid Kayaks.

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The first one was the Canadian made Feathercraft. Extremely high quality watercraft, assembled by fitting a multi-piece aluminum frame inside a durable outer skin. But these came very, very expensive. The starting price was $6,000 for their entry level touring Kayak. And I shuddered to think what the import duties on that would be. But while this was the best money could buy, this also meant I would first need to spend the first year just saving for something like that.

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The second one was an American company called Advanced Elements. They specialized in inflatable kayaks which claimed to offer exceptional tracking and stability by use of aluminum parts in the bow/stern and helped by a metal 'backbone' which ran the length of the kayak - meant for aiding straight line tracking. They were reasonably priced too, in the $400-600 range, and from what I saw on youtube and close up pictures, the materials seemed very well made, though the kayaks were made in Asia.

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The third and fourth were companies called Sevylor and Sea Eagle. The Sevylor seemed a bit 'Ballooney' and the Sea Kayak seemed to have a very 'slow' shape, more whitewater raft than Kayak. That kind of construction isn't great for long distance touring at all. But I shortlisted them too, and decided to research a bit more before closing in.

As I started calculating approximate costs for other equipment, I realized that the expensive Feathercraft won't make it. It was just too much money. I started veering towards the Advanced Elements as I read mostly glowing reviews by users, and their kayaks were relatively lightweight and packed small. There was this one model called the Advanced Elements Expedition which I zeroed on, and started to devour whatever information I could find on it. After a while, I decided that my Kayak for this trip would be the Advanced Elements Expedition.

With the choice of Kayak behind me (more or less), I trained my focus on other equipment - paddles, flotation device, navigation systems, tent, airpad, camping stove, food, water storage, dry bags etc. As I mentioned earlier, I could not use regular camping equipment because of size and weight constraints, and everything would have to be bought brand new, and imported from the US. Finally, by July 2012, I had a 90% ready list of things to buy. For kayak related gear, I found a website called www.airkayaks.com, run by an extremely friendly and helpful person named Holly, and I gradually started getting things shipped from the US. What I got air shipped to India was mostly heavy stuff like the kayak cart (for dragging the kayak on dry land), the aluminum 'backbone' (a padded rod which connected the front and back of the Kayak), primary and back-up paddle, foot pump for inflation and some other things, like the sail and some dry bags.

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As for the Kayak, I chose to get it shipped from www.airkayaks.com to a friend's place in the US, and the plan was to hand carry it back to India on my next US trip in November 2012. When I landed in the US, I went to the REI store (the outdoor enthusiast's candy-land) and bought the GPS, solar electronic charger, stoves, and the flotation vest, all of which I decided to hand carry. On the way back, I was worried that excess baggage would cost me a bomb, but I needn't have worried. I got upgraded to a first class Suite (with Iranian Caviar, no less) for the journey back to India, which meant extra kilos were promptly overlooked with a nice smile and a lounge pass!

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So after I lay out my stuff on the apartment floor in Bangalore, this was the inventory I had, apart from many other small things. For those of you who want to see the list of EVERYTHING I carried on my trip, the attached pdf file (prep list.pdf) has a detailed itemized list.


1) Advanced Elements Expedition Kayak, with aluminum 'backbone' and double action handpump.
2) Ascent paddle with carbon fibre shaft and Cannon paddle as backup. Paddling gloves.
3) Stolquist Drifter personal flotation device. Also got an emergency whistle.
4) Garmin GPSMap 72 - waterproof, submersible and floatable
5) Oakley Radarlock Polarized sunglasses with vented lenses and around-the-head band.
6) Sea to Summit, Maxxon and Seal Line dry bags. And a bag for the backup paddle.
7) Advanced elements Kayak Cart
8) Advanced Elements foldable sail
9) Adidas Jawpaw watershoe with drainage vents
10) Nikon AW100 waterproof and submersible camera with GPS
11) Soto stove (Petrol or Kerosene fuel), with Titanium alloy kettle
12) North Face Asylum Bivy tent (800 grams) with guy lines, footprint, and spare pegs and tent light
13) Thermarest Airpad (mattress)
14) 10 litre MSR Dromedary Waterbag ( an absolute necessity!)
15) Bailing sponge and towing line with climbing grade carabiners.
16) Go Pro with gorilla Pod. 2 x 32 GB SD cards.
17) Extensive first aid kit including vinegar for Jellyfish stings, venom extractor kit, waterproof tagiderm bandaids and loads of other stuff required to patch up deep cuts.
18) REI foldable chair (the only luxury I could manage)
19) Freeze dried food
20) Solar charger with storage battery for all my cellphones and camera.
21) Long range LED Maglite torch with strobe and signal modes. I could not find a saltwater knife so I packed a swiss knife rescue tool in ziplock bags.

By the time I had acquired all this stuff, I still had more than a month to go, so I waited to complete my dry (no, wet) runs in the ocean and see if everything worked ok, and whether I needed to buy anything else.

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For most people who have seen someone Kayaking , it would appear that a Kayak is propelled solely by the use of hands. That is only partially true. The arms are there just to grip the paddle - most of the forward propulsion comes from torso rotation, which meant that an expedition paddler should have strong core, back and shoulder muscles. So I knew that I had to begin weight training at least 6 months before the trip. I was always in more than average shape, with regular runs and free hand exercises, but I needed to work on my upper back, core and forearms. I set out to do these isolation exercises on a regular basis, and also working on increasing my aerobic capacities by doing sprint interval training during my runs. I also paddled at every opportunity I got - in May 2012, I also went on a short paddle on the freezing Lake Crescent (Olympic National park, Washington, USA) - the glacial water was unbelievably blue, as if someone had put in drums of dye in it!

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The route was another area where I spent a LOT of time on. I scoured every kilometer of the planned route on Google Earth, and marked out planned stops, storing the coordinates and waypoints on Google Earth. I recorded every potential landing sites and points of interest. The plan was to perfect a travel plan on Google Earth, and then export that to my GPS. My dry runs would give me a sense of the speed I could comfortably do in a day, but during the planning stage I assumed a cruising speed based on my experience in lakes.

As I looked at all the equipment around me, it slowly started to sink in. The trip I dreamt about for the last two years was about to roll. There was no turning back.

It was late November, 2012, and I was ready for my first coastal dry run on the Mangalore coast.


Next Episode: First dry run - paddling to St. Mary's island and back!

Last edited by Kamen_rider : 23rd March 2013 at 13:04.
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Old 23rd March 2013, 13:11   #3
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Default Re: Going solo at 5 kmph - Mumbai to Goa in an inflatable kayak!

Mods note: Thread moved from Assembly Line to Travelogues section. Thanks for sharing this superb feat.
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Old 23rd March 2013, 13:46   #4
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Default

This is going to be really interesting read.
Looking forward to see the pictures of konkan coastline taken from the sea.
I hope, you may have found many unknown beautiful places along the coastline that we may not know.
Waiting to read more about this unique adventure.

Last edited by ASHISHPALLOD : 23rd March 2013 at 13:51.
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Old 23rd March 2013, 13:54   #5
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Default Re: Going solo at 5 kmph - Mumbai to Goa in an inflatable kayak!

Really looking forward to the rest of this TL. Must have been an amazing experience.

Looking forward to the photos too because there must be some truly stunning scenery out there on that coastal run
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Old 23rd March 2013, 14:25   #6
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Default Re: Going solo at 5 kmph - Mumbai to Goa in an inflatable kayak!

Brilliant adventure story this will be! And great info about the basics and the kayaking ways - please do continue to share all the funda and techniques of kayaking as you journey.

Did you practice any breathing exercise or drills like holding air underwater, and if so the particulars too.

Last edited by adc : 23rd March 2013 at 14:32.
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Old 23rd March 2013, 14:48   #7
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Default Re: Going solo at 5 kmph - Mumbai to Goa in an inflatable kayak!

Wow. Absolutely riveted to this thread. Very well written, Kamen_rider!

Needless to say, I can't wait for the rest of the adventure to unfold!
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Old 23rd March 2013, 14:51   #8
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Default Re: Going solo at 5 kmph - Mumbai to Goa in an inflatable kayak!

This is amazing. Beyond words. I have kayaked a bit in the Nainital/ nearby lakes, primarily on the WW grade W1 and W2 kayaks. This is superb. The fact that you took two years to plan this out speaks a lot about the dedication.

Awaiting the full story to be told. Glued.

Best,
Tapish
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Old 23rd March 2013, 14:53   #9
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Default Re: Going solo at 5 kmph - Mumbai to Goa in an inflatable kayak!

WOW !! This is going to be one heck of a ride !!

Can't wait for it to unfold.

It's going to be useful and educational too.
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Old 23rd March 2013, 15:13   #10
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Default Re: Going solo at 5 kmph - Mumbai to Goa in an inflatable kayak!

This is going to be one very interesting travelogue. Just cant wait for this + the pics. The experience is going to be "unmatchable".

Hooked on sir.


Cheers,
Yogesh.
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Old 23rd March 2013, 15:22   #11
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Default Re: Going solo at 5 kmph - Mumbai to Goa in an inflatable kayak!

Kamen_rider,

This is one unique escapade/ journey you have envisioned and done.
Interesting is how you have empowered yourself physically to undertake the challenge you has set for yourself. Also commendable is the research you must have done.

Without asking any questions and wainscoting for your story to unfold in pictures and words we eagerly wait.

Almost could taste the Iranian, Caspian, caviar.
Regards,
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Old 23rd March 2013, 15:36   #12
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Default Re: Going solo at 5 kmph - Mumbai to Goa in an inflatable kayak!

This is phenomenal stuff...

I am into a bit of kayaking(palolem is my choice of place to do it usually) myself and always dream of doing something like this. BTW I am about to buy a tent for my adventure trips. Guess I can use some tips from you. Once you get time please post some info on light-weight easy-to-carry tents.

Glued to this thread
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Old 23rd March 2013, 17:06   #13
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Default Re: Going solo at 5 kmph - Mumbai to Goa in an inflatable kayak!

Quote:
Originally Posted by ASHISHPALLOD View Post
This is going to be really interesting read.
Looking forward to see the pictures of konkan coastline taken from the sea.
I hope, you may have found many unknown beautiful places along the coastline that we may not know.
Quote:
Originally Posted by pganapathy View Post
Really looking forward to the rest of this TL. Must have been an amazing experience.

Looking forward to the photos too because there must be some truly stunning scenery out there on that coastal run
Thank you! Yes, it was amazing being able to experience the coastline from the sea. One thing I must say is that travelling in the ocean at 5kmph is an entirely different experience from riding a motor driven boat - kayak touring in the ocean is a much engaging experience, the slow speed and your connection with water allows you to notice things one would not normally do so. Same difference between being on a train and riding a motorcycle.

Hundreds of kilometers which are virtually untouched by civilization, and here's a teaser picture for you from the second half of my trip.

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Stay tuned folks - this is going to be a looong thread with more than two more weeks of trip yet to come!

Quote:
Originally Posted by adc View Post
Brilliant adventure story this will be! And great info about the basics and the kayaking ways - please do continue to share all the funda and techniques of kayaking as you journey.

Did you practice any breathing exercise or drills like holding air underwater, and if so the particulars too.
Thanks adc, I will also share with everyone more techniques I learnt at sea about launching, landing and navigating less than favorable wave conditions. More about that in days to come.

I have a high natural breath hold capacity (stationary breath hold of 1 min 46 seconds) so I did not focus on developing that further, but boy it did do me good when my kayak capsized on a number of occasions!

Quote:
Originally Posted by anekho View Post
Wow. Absolutely riveted to this thread. Very well written, Kamen_rider!

Needless to say, I can't wait for the rest of the adventure to unfold!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tapish View Post
This is amazing. Beyond words. I have kayaked a bit in the Nainital/ nearby lakes, primarily on the WW grade W1 and W2 kayaks. This is superb. The fact that you took two years to plan this out speaks a lot about the dedication.

Awaiting the full story to be told. Glued.

Best,
Tapish
Quote:
Originally Posted by normally_crazy View Post
WOW !! This is going to be one heck of a ride !!

Can't wait for it to unfold.

It's going to be useful and educational too.
Quote:
Originally Posted by yogeshnagpal View Post
This is going to be one very interesting travelogue. Just cant wait for this + the pics. The experience is going to be "unmatchable".

Hooked on sir.

Cheers,
Yogesh.
Thank you everyone, I will have keep 'em coming over the next many weeks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by fazalaliadil View Post
Kamen_rider,

This is one unique escapade/ journey you have envisioned and done.
Interesting is how you have empowered yourself physically to undertake the challenge you has set for yourself. Also commendable is the research you must have done.

Without asking any questions and wainscoting for your story to unfold in pictures and words we eagerly wait.

Almost could taste the Iranian, Caspian, caviar.
Regards,
Ha ha, the caviar was delicious. Real one for change which the air hostess served me out of a very expensive looking can, not the el cheapo stuff. And since first class is A La Carte, I had two of those servings! Some advanced nutrition for my kayaking adventure

Quote:
Originally Posted by SoumenD View Post
This is phenomenal stuff...

I am into a bit of kayaking(palolem is my choice of place to do it usually) myself and always dream of doing something like this. BTW I am about to buy a tent for my adventure trips. Guess I can use some tips from you. Once you get time please post some info on light-weight easy-to-carry tents.

Glued to this thread
Thank you, Soumen! Kayaking is fun, isn't it? If you can dream about it, you can do it. I am not a hardcore kayaker, and I did it just because I wanted to do it. Anyone can do it, provided one carves out the time and resources.


I bought a one-man tent from North face, called the Asylum Bivy. The picture above doesn't look like much, but boy, it has more than enough space for one person. The weight is under a kilogram, and it is easy to set up once you have chosen the right surface. I personally love North face tents, they are expensive, but will last a lifetime. There are similar 2-3 person tents available from a lot of brands - just browse REI.com to look at more choices, and you can pm me for questions.
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Last edited by Kamen_rider : 23rd March 2013 at 17:09.
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Old 23rd March 2013, 17:17   #14
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Default Re: Going solo at 5 kmph - Mumbai to Goa in an inflatable kayak!

I don't generally comment on travelogues, but this one has me hooked. Can't wait for the rest of it.
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Old 23rd March 2013, 17:56   #15
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Default Re: Going solo at 5 kmph - Mumbai to Goa in an inflatable kayak!

First of its kind on the forum I guess?
Waiting to see the beaches still untouched thanks to lack of roads.
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